Branding doesn’t seem to be a term publishing houses are aware of, but they should be. Walking into a book store today you see a lot of merchandise that isn’t connected to books, and one can question whether bookstores as they are today will survive, especially when we see a big bookstore chain like Borders files for bankruptcy. In Norway most bookstores are owned by publishing houses and they are slowly moving towards publishing books as ebooks. So what has publishing to do with branding?
So far publishing houses has focused on the physical product that they deliver – the book. They have an untapped market – which is to provide a service connected to the books they sell. Branding the authors themselves, create forums to discuss the books, let the authors have blogs, facebook fan pages and interact with their fans.By offering their authors and readers these services, they create a multitude of marketing options for themselves. They can easily create excitement about new projects for the readers and make them aware of books that can be of interest of them (within the same genre).
They should learn a thing or two from the film industry where they create games and merchandise based upon best selling movies and books. Publishers can create merchandise like t-shirts, mugs and pens connected to bestselling books and sell it within bookstores they own or not.
If not the publishing houses do it, at least the authors themselves should look upon themselves as a brand. J.K. Rowling is onto something with the pottermore site when it’s available to the public. I have no access to the beta trials, but what I have heard is that pottermore is like a game where you play into the different chapters of the books. You get selected into a Hogwarts house based upon questions you have answered and have to find a wand that matches your personality.
There’s not many authors that has as much success as Rowling and one certainly don’t have to make things as elaborate as described above. Creating a website about the author and a forum will go a long way.
Look at one of my favorite authors: Brandon Sanderson. He has an official site, and even though I think the site itself is horrible, it’s there and I usually find what I’m looking for. On the left side you can see what he is working on and how far he is along. I love that I now see that he has Stormlight 2 up on his board even though he hasn’t started. I’m a fan of his facebook fan page and I like that I know he recently was on a Mythbuster show. I like Mythbuster too. I used to follow the podcast Writing Excuses where he and some other folks talk about how to write books. Now this is a guy after my own heart where he have multiple interests and projects at the same time.
That’s exactly the wisdom I would loved if the publishing houses had caught a sniff of. The readers want to know more of the books, the world the books are in, the authors and what shows they like and why. Readers want to buy t-shirts that only insiders/readers of the same books understand.
Do I think publishers will understand this? No, but the authors are already moving past them.